Losing volume during mash/boil.

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Cynic

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So I am brewing my first all grain beer. I used a one pot setup with a fine mesh mash strainer and have a pump for recirculating and cooling via plate chiller. The recipe says I should have gotten a volume of about 21 litres but I ended up with about 18 litres at a gravity of 1.060. I understand that the lower gravity might be due to my inexperience of brewing but I don't get how I could lose 3 litres of volume compared to the recipe. I have an Inkbird temperature controller and all the temps and timings were added to the programming. When I sparged I just removed the grain strainer from the pot and put it over a bucket and dripped 77°C water over the top (maybe this is not a good method) then poured the liquid back into the pot for boiling. Is there a possibility that a whole 3 litres of liquid could be lost in the grain bed? Do I need to press it or what do you think the reason might be? I'll throw the recipe in with the post.
 

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IslandLizard

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That! ^

In addition to wort losses due to grain absorption, maybe you boiled off more volume than anticipated.
In that light, brewing volumes are quite unique to a brewer and his system.

A recipe can only give you a ballpark on how much water to use, but may not work for everyone as each system has its own "losses." Some brewers boil harder, more vigorously, resulting in more evaporation. And likely an associated higher usage of fuel too.

A mere simmer, surface rippling, is plenty. As long as you boil off (evaporate) around 1 gallon an hour (in a 5-6 gallon batch) you should be good.
 
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Cynic

Cynic

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That! ^

In addition to wort losses due to grain absorption, maybe you boiled off more volume than anticipated.
In that light, brewing volumes are quite unique to a brewer and his system.

A recipe can only give you a ballpark on how much water to use, but may not work for everyone as each system has its own "losses." Some brewers brew harder, more vigorously, resulting in more evaporation, an likely an associated higher usage of fuel too.

A mere simmer, surface rippling, is plenty. As long as you boil off (evaporate) around 1 gallon an hour (in a 5-6 gallon batch) you should be good.

Yeah I had a pretty hard boil going on the entire time. I set my Inkbird to 101 degrees but maybe it would be better to lower it to like 98-99 degrees to get more of a simmer, since the probe will have delayed input to the heat controller.
 

jdauria

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As others have said, you are losing volume on grain absorption, boil off and chilling (shrinkage from hot wort to cool wort) rates and also any liquid still in pump/tubing. This is all normal, you just need to take great notes and know what these volumes all are, and dial in your equipment profile in whatever software you are using.
 

ncbrewer

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Yeah I had a pretty hard boil going on the entire time. I set my Inkbird to 101 degrees but maybe it would be better to lower it to like 98-99 degrees to get more of a simmer, since the probe will have delayed input to the heat controller.
I haven't tried it, but I doubt if a temperature setting would work well for controlling boil intensity. You're probably better off just watching the surface and adjusting as needed. Setting the heat input should theoretically do it, but I don't know if it would work reliably. I know I need to adjust now and then to get really good control.
 
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I haven't tried it, but I doubt if a temperature setting would work well for controlling boil intensity. You're probably better off just watching the surface and adjusting as needed. Setting the heat input should theoretically do it, but I don't know if it would work reliably. I know I need to adjust now and then to get really good control.

Problem is I am using a pot with a heating element that is just directly plugged into the Inkbird temperature controller. I have no way of controlling the intensity of the element other than setting a temp in the Inkbird that switches it on/off based on the temperature input from the probe.
 

Elric

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Problem is I am using a pot with a heating element that is just directly plugged into the Inkbird temperature controller. I have no way of controlling the intensity of the element other than setting a temp in the Inkbird that switches it on/off based on the temperature input from the probe.
There's nothing wrong with a vigorous boil, you just need to know what your rate is so you can adjust water levels accordingly. Anytime I get a new kettle to brew in first thing I do is add a measured amount of water to it equivalent to a regular brew day and boil it for an hour. Afterwards I measure the remaining amount so I know how much I boiled off so I can adjust future brews accordingly.

cheers
 

CascadesBrewer

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The recipe says I should have gotten a volume of about 21 litres but I ended up with about 18 litres

Good responses so far. I just wanted to cycle back to this. Brewing software calculates values based on what you tell it (or based off the default values if you have not tweaked them). If you tell your mapping app that you drive 120 km/hr, it will predict an arrival time based on that value, even if you really drive 90 km/hr.

Looking at the numbers from the recipe sheet, the settings tell it that you will lose 3.87 L to grain absorption (assuming your system does not have any other losses of wort, which it should not since it is a single vessel setup), and that you will boil off 3 L of volume.

Strike Water
23.91​
Sparge Water
5.36​
Total Water
29.27​
Loss - Grain
3.87​
Loss - Mash Equip.
0​
Pre-Boil Volume
25.4​
Loss - Boil
3​
Post-Boil Volume
22.4​
Loss - Kettle
1.4​
Batch Size
21​

So somewhere in BrewFather (which I don't use) there is likely a grain absorption value of 0.63L per Kg of grain (which translates to 0.076 gals per lb of grain). This is pretty close to what I use in my BIAB system, but it will depend on how well you drain liquid from the grain. This is probably a bit aggressive if you are using a basket and not squeezing.

There is probably another setting in BrewFather that says your equipment will boil off 3L per hour. This is likely not enough for a vigorous boil. I get 4-5L per hour trying to maintain a low boil on my propane burner, and around 3L per hour when using my stove.

Taking measurements at key points will help you tweak the software values. I suspect you loss an extra 1 L in the grain, and boiled off an extra 2 L over the predicted value. Or you could have lost more volume in the kettle.

Different software treats the expansion and contraction due to temperature differently. There is about a 1L difference in volume for this batch size at boiling temps vs yeast pitching temps. Current temperature is something to think about when taking volume measurements.
 
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Cynic

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Good responses so far. I just wanted to cycle back to this. Brewing software calculates values based on what you tell it (or based off the default values if you have not tweaked them). If you tell your mapping app that you drive 120 km/hr, it will predict an arrival time based on that value, even if you really drive 90 km/hr.

Looking at the numbers from the recipe sheet, the settings tell it that you will lose 3.87 L to grain absorption (assuming your system does not have any other losses of wort, which it should not since it is a single vessel setup), and that you will boil off 3 L of volume.

Strike Water
23.91​
Sparge Water
5.36​
Total Water
29.27​
Loss - Grain
3.87​
Loss - Mash Equip.
0​
Pre-Boil Volume
25.4​
Loss - Boil
3​
Post-Boil Volume
22.4​
Loss - Kettle
1.4​
Batch Size
21​

So somewhere in BrewFather (which I don't use) there is likely a grain absorption value of 0.63L per Kg of grain (which translates to 0.076 gals per lb of grain). This is pretty close to what I use in my BIAB system, but it will depend on how well you drain liquid from the grain. This is probably a bit aggressive if you are using a basket and not squeezing.

There is probably another setting in BrewFather that says your equipment will boil off 3L per hour. This is likely not enough for a vigorous boil. I get 4-5L per hour trying to maintain a low boil on my propane burner, and around 3L per hour when using my stove.

Taking measurements at key points will help you tweak the software values. I suspect you loss an extra 1 L in the grain, and boiled off an extra 2 L over the predicted value. Or you could have lost more volume in the kettle.

Different software treats the expansion and contraction due to temperature differently. There is about a 1L difference in volume for this batch size at boiling temps vs yeast pitching temps. Current temperature is something to think about when taking volume measurements.

Thanks I am still very new to this. I didn't use any program or do any calculations. I just poached that recipe sheet from a local homebrewing Facebook group.

However if I didn't lose all that liquid I am afraid that my OG would have been considerably lower than the recipe predicts. Any useful tips on getting a better efficiency?
 

BrewingWisdom

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So I am brewing my first all grain beer. I used a one pot setup with a fine mesh mash strainer and have a pump for recirculating and cooling via plate chiller. The recipe says I should have gotten a volume of about 21 litres but I ended up with about 18 litres at a gravity of 1.060. I understand that the lower gravity might be due to my inexperience of brewing but I don't get how I could lose 3 litres of volume compared to the recipe. I have an Inkbird temperature controller and all the temps and timings were added to the programming. When I sparged I just removed the grain strainer from the pot and put it over a bucket and dripped 77°C water over the top (maybe this is not a good method) then poured the liquid back into the pot for boiling. Is there a possibility that a whole 3 liters of liquid could be lost in the grain bed? Do I need to press it or what do you think the reason might be? I'll throw the recipe in with the post.
I think losing that much is normal after all liquid evaporates.
 

rock_n_herm

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Thanks I am still very new to this. I didn't use any program or do any calculations. I just poached that recipe sheet from a local homebrewing Facebook group.

However if I didn't lose all that liquid I am afraid that my OG would have been considerably lower than the recipe predicts. Any useful tips on getting a better efficiency?
Start using brewing software, and tracking everything that you can measure or record. I use Brewer’s Friend, affiliated with this site. They have a recipe builder that works with an equipment profile. You have to input data into an equipment profile, then build a recipe, even if using someone else’s recipe. If you take the time to read through their guidance, you can learn some very helpful information that will help you improve your mash and brewhouse efficiencies.
 

IslandLizard

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So I am brewing my first all grain beer.
It takes a few times of brewing to refine the various sub-processes involved. Reduce losses, improve efficiencies, taylor recipes to your processes to match the outcome of the final beer you're after.

I used a one pot setup with a fine mesh mash strainer and have a pump for recirculating and cooling via plate chiller.
That's a good start, a variation on BIAB, Mash In A Basket. ;)
A sparge (rinse) will help increase your mash/lauter efficiency, to reclaim much of the high gravity wort trapped in the basket with (wet) grist.

The recipe says I should have gotten a volume of about 21 litres but I ended up with about 18 litres at a gravity of 1.060.
Volume and gravity are related like a rubber band. Longer but thinner vs. shorter but thicker.
Length = volume
Thickness = gravity

You were a bit short on volume because you sustained a larger total volume loss than envisioned.
We went over that already how to bring that closer to predictions with your system.

But you also lost gravity. The sparge after the mash, as I mentioned above, will help you raise your gravity (total points converted/extracted).

Among a good handful of factors, fineness of milling may well be the biggest factor in mash efficiency (gravity points extracted).
The finer the grist is milled, the more thorough and faster the starch conversion, and higher the yield (wort gravity, points).

For that, mill/crush your grain finer, using a narrower gap, such as 0.025" instead of 0.045" to which many standard grain mills/crushers are set for.
Especially when you're mashing in a mesh bag or basket, you can mill rather fine. The bag or basket is your strainer that separates wort (liquid) from grist (solids).

If there's a large % of "sticky grains" in there (wheat, rye, or oat malt, or any flaked goods), add a few handfuls of rice hulls (or oat hulls) to the mash, to keep the grist lusher.

Reduce the amount of wort left behind (lost) at various stages, such as vessels, apparatus, hoses, etc. Any wort that doesn't make it into your fermentation vessel never becomes beer. ;)
 

rock_n_herm

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I am a single vessel, full volume mash, BIAB brewer. A finer crush is better for this process. Luckily, the lhbs where I get my grains has a grain mill that only employees are allowed to operate. That grain mill apparently has a setting that is ideal for BIAB crush. I just let them know I use BIAB process, and they adjust their mill accordingly. As such, when I pour my grains in the mash, there is a good proportion that is ground to flour. My mash and brewhouse efficiencies are always respectable. I am currently using a brewhouse efficiency of 80% for my recipes. Take good measurements, keep good notes and you can develop a repeatable process. It just takes time, and brew days.
 

doug293cz

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Yeah I had a pretty hard boil going on the entire time. I set my Inkbird to 101 degrees but maybe it would be better to lower it to like 98-99 degrees to get more of a simmer, since the probe will have delayed input to the heat controller.
Problem is I am using a pot with a heating element that is just directly plugged into the Inkbird temperature controller. I have no way of controlling the intensity of the element other than setting a temp in the Inkbird that switches it on/off based on the temperature input from the probe.
Unfortunately, you cannot use a temperature controller to control boil vigor. It's basic physical chemistry, and there is no work-around. The boiling temp of a liquid depends only on the composition of the liquid, and the local barometric pressure. If you set a temperature controller a little above boiling temp (i.e. 101°C), the power will be on 100%, and the temp will be 100°C. If you set it just below boiling temp (i.e. 99°C), the temp will be 99°C, and you will not boil at all. To control boiling vigor, you need to use a variable power controller.

If you have no choice but to use a temperature controller for "boiling" while brewing, you are better off setting the temp 1° below local boiling temp. You will not boil, but the things that need to happen (hop acid isomerization, SMM conversion to DMS, microbe killing, etc.) will occur. What you won't get is very much water evaporation, and you will have to compensate for this in your recipes (after you have measured what it actually is.)

Brew on :mug:
 
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